a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 1692.0 to 1712.5. Tentsite by dirtroad to forest camp.
We slept well in Oregon. :-) And we sleep in because it was our longest day yet yesterday and we feel like we deserve it. Another reason is that we don't want to make it all the way to Ashland today. We decided a few weeks ago that we are going to try to arrive in towns early in the day rather than in the evening. This way for a zero we only need one overnight stay in town and can save some money.
We leave our tentsite around 8am, before Sababa, and hike quickly to the first water source where, as it turns out, both NOBOs and SOBOs have gathered for a rather large breakfast party. There are at least 10 hikers there, and I don't know when was the last time we saw so many hikers in one place. We take our time filtering water, eating breakfast, Dario even eats Ramen noodles for breakfast. Two packs. Looks like his upset stomach is no longer causing him any trouble.
We eventually get going again, before any other NOBOs, and enjoy being in Oregon. I want to say it's quite different to NorCal, but it's actually not. Maybe less steep. Yes, that could be. Maybe a little greener, yes, definitely. The forest are a lush green color, but I guess you wouldn't really be able to tell that you're hiking in a different state.
We meet everyone again for lunch at the next water source. There is also a very courageous deer there, enjoying her lunch right next to us. The deer generally seem less afraid and more trusting the further north we go. Aardvark and Switchbacks, another Israeli we've met, already go ahead while Sababa takes it easy and stays put. We keep meeting SOBOs, I guess this is the time and place we get to cross most of them. And they're a great source of information! One of them tells us about upcoming trail magic, sodas in a cooler and we couldn't get more excited! We basically run up the trail to the trail magic where Aardvark and Switchbacks are - of course - enjoying the fresh and cool drinks. The view is also quite nice. Is the smoke finally lifting?
They soon leave again as they still plan to make it to Ashland tonight. It's already 4pm and takes 10 more miles until they will reach the highway to Ashland. Luckily, we are in no rush as our selected campsite is only 5 miles further up the trail. When we finally reach it we are quite groggy, after all we pulled another 20 miler today! We chose a nice site and set up camp under the sky. Sababa only joins us when we are already done with dinner. Luckily we get AT&T cell coverage here and watch another one or two Friends episodes. We really look forward to reaching Ashland in the morning. We booked a motel with pool and hope to be able to relax as well as get everything done in time. We need to buy some new gear, do the resupply and shipping for all of Oregon and of course do our laundry. So as usual, a lot to get done in ~24h!
Miles 1665.9 to 1692.0. Kangaroo Spring to tentside by a dirt road.
Today we could finally leave California and enter Oregon. After over 3 months California will be in the past. We have been more and more looking forward to crossing the border in the last few days. But that would mean a 26 mile hike today, which would be our new record.
To accomplish this, we start early today. The whole smoke situation is finally way better today. On our first uphill climb, we can even see Mount Shasta in the distance, clearly and majestically!
After 1.5 hours we reach a dirt road where we saw on our hiking app that there is a spring right next to it. As we arrive, we realize we are not the only ones here. There is also Aardvark, a 20ish year old girl from Chicago and Switchbacks, a cool guy from Israel, who have been cowboy camping next to the dirt road. We talk a bit with these guys and then quickly fill up our bottles at the spring. When we come back, there is also Sababa again, sitting with the others.
From the road it is now a fairly steep climb for the next 3 or 4 miles all the way up. California is testing us the last time before it lets us leave! But the climbing isn’t as terrible as the day before and soon it is over.
For lunch we found a spot on Guthooks, our hiking app, where there supposedly should be cell reception. And indeed, there is cell reception and furthermore about 1 million wasps, which is really annoying. After a while Sababa joins us here and gets his share of the wasp invasion.
The afternoon is more or less a race towards Oregon. We keep on leapfrogging with Sababa, Switchback and Aardvark, always have a little chat and then continue racing to the Oregon border.
We start counting down the remaining miles... Only 5 more miles now! The first three are steeply down all the way. But we are starting to feel tired by now.
„How far is it still?“, Maya keeps asking. 3 more miles, one down, 2 up. It is now 6.30 pm and it is getting closer to sunset. Ok, we are at the lowest point now. Only 2 more miles up.
There are now several small signs at the trees where people have been writing sayings on them. „Almost in freaking Oregon!“, „Close to leaving Northern California“, „Only 1 mile!“.
Oh yes, only 1 mile. But here we have to fill our water bottles for the last time in California so we have enough water for tomorrow. The plan is to sleep right after the border, only 0.3 miles away there is a nice spot according to Guthooks.
Only 0.5 miles left. It gets steeper and darker very quickly by now. I am completely drenched in sweat but keep on hiking faster and faster. 0.2 miles, 0.1... There!! We see it! And Aardvark next to the tree with the border sign. Five more meeeeeters... Done!
We all hug each other firmly, sipping Aardvark’s whiskey and start writing in the provided trail register next to the border when first Switchback arrives, followed by Sababa only a couple of minutes later.
Maya and I take some pictures together then some group pictures with our friends.
After all is done we hike the remaining 0.3 miles up to our campsite, pitch our tent and have dinner together with Sababa and Aardvark. First night in Oregon, finally we are here! Oregon - it is going to be great!
Miles to 1649.5 to 1665.9. Grider Creek campground to Kangaroo spring.
The night was horrible thanks to the campers who had turned the generator on again during the night, depriving us of a good night‘s sleep. I got so mad at some point and almost went back knocking at their door at 4am.
We get up before 6am in order to get to Seiad Valley and the famous breakfast there. There is actually a pancake challenge happening. If you finish the 5 pound (more than 2kg!) of pancakes you get them for free. Well we are not participating anyway since we are not especially fond of pancakes anyway. But there are loads of other choices we‘re sure, so let‘s go for it! It‘s a 6.5 mile roadwalk to town, all part of the PCT, and we make excellent time and are there shortly past 8am. Snowwhite, Rocket & Co. are also there, they were further ahead already and decided spontaneously to have breakfast there as well. So they turned around. That‘s how good the reputation of the Seiad Valley breakfast is!
We enjoy two amazing omelettes with bacon, cheese, tomatoes and avocados, re-fill coffee. Life is good! We also have time and okay wifi to call our parents and wish Dario‘s mum a very happy birthday!
We hesitate to get going, it‘s already really hot outside and we know that a huge climb is awaiting us.
And it is huge. And it is bad. Worse than expected. It‘s hot and I constantly feel sick. It‘s also very smokey again, the smoke depriving us of any potential views that I bet would be gorgeous. I can‘t stand it anymore. I feel terrible. I can‘t walk, we keep taking breaks so that I can recover. But I do feel miserable and nothing can change that at the moment. I actually believe I am homesick! I dearly wish for my family right now. I am beyond relieved that Dario is here and taking such good care of me because I feel like I just want to break down. What are we doing all this for? Dario‘s had such a rough day yesterday and I felt so helpless because I didn‘t exactly feel much better, but needed to be the strong one. Does it have to be this hard? And if yes, how long do we need to keep pushing anyway? When is enough enough? I always knew it was gonna be hard. I always thought reaching physical limits would be my reason to quit the trail. Then friends and family would tell me reassuringly that the trail will not be so much about the physical strength rather than the mental strength. And then I would be relieved and think, well, then I might actually make it. But lately we have both been struggling mentally. It‘s still such a huge task to take on and right now I am just not sure I want to keep hiking every day. We saved up money for so long, made big plans for this year abroad and I don‘t want to be spending any moment of it being miserable. Right? Or is being miserable just a part of it and we need to get over it? Someone smart once said that great things never came from comfort zones. A lot of people don’t do great things because most great things don‘t feel great while you‘re doing them. I guess there is some truth in that.
So on we hike but changing our plans according to our mood. We hike on for a couple more hours, but make 6 miles less than planned. We also meet Sababa, a hiker from Israel who has also been struggling today.
We pitch our tent in a very windy valley (after there was no wind at all all day) and go straight to bed, no dinner. When I lie down I am already feeling much better. And tomorrow we will cross the border into Oregon. A big, meaningful day tomorrow. Something to hold on to.
Miles 1630.6 to 1649.5. Campsite on a ridge to Grider Creek campground.
Today was a bad day. A really bad day. But let’s start at the beginning.
We start our morning rather late and get up at 6:30am. Shortly after the Canadians who were apparently sleeping some miles behind us pass us and are now in front of us. Only a couple of minutes later also Tacos and Foodfight catch us and pass - goodbye.
But then, 20 minutes later, we all are set and ready to go. Today is fairly easy. First we have to climb about one mile but from there it is all the way down, for more than 25 miles until Seiad Valley, where we would actually like to stay over night.
And so we start, do the one mile climb without any problems and after one more hour of easy hiking we reach a spring where we fill up our water and have breakfast. A lovely and curious deer keeps us company.
Shortly after breakfast my stomach starts feeling weird and it is getting worse and worse. I am nauseous now and feel like I am about to throw up. We continue to hike, it is now getting warmer and warmer and then I actually have to throw up.
We rest for about 15 minutes and then try to continue. I still feel sick. The path is now going downward very steeply, the ground is more or less sandy and does not provide a lot of grip for the shoes.. And then it happens. I roll my ankle and fall over. That did hurt, damn it! Luckily nothing really happened, but my ankle is hurting badly. Nevertheless we continue descending, because what else can we do? I am still feeling sick, my ankle hurts and the trail is still going downwards very steeply. And boom, it happens again, I roll my ankle again, of course it is the same one I rolled before, but this time a lot worse. What a shitty day! Damn this trail, what are we still doing here, I swear and just wish to be on a beach or somewhere where I don’t torture myself every day. But after 10 minutes I get myself together again and stand up only to find something looking like a spike looking out of my upper leg. I pull it out and realize that half a bee comes with it… Of course, when I was falling I must have hit a bee! What the f***! This day is one of the worst so far. But we still continue (what other options do we have) and as for now I don’t fall again until we reach a river with a nice bridge where Tacos and Foodfight are having a lunch break. We join them, tell them about my shitty day and relax next to the water. After one hour of relaxing and even having a quick bath in the ice cold river, I finally start to feel better. I am even able to eat some ramen noodles again and the cold water helps to cool down my hurt ankle.
Approx 30 minutes after Tacos and Foodfight have left we also hit the trail again. It is clear that we won’t make it to Sead Valley tonight since we are way behind today’s schedule. But anyways, we try to get to a camping place 6 miles before Seiad Valley. It is only 7 miles in the afternoon, everything goes straight, we see another baby deer and arrive at the camping place about 5:30 pm. We stroll around a bit as we are not sure where to best pitch our tent, when we see a red car and a woman standing next to it. As we get closer the woman starts to look familiar...Is that…? No, tast can’t be her, or is it really her?!
It turns out it is her! It’s Frodo, the famous trail angel we were staying with for two days before we started the trail! So awesome! She is waiting here at the parking lot for her husband Scout, who is hiking this section with a couple and should also arrive within the hour. We keep talking to Frodo for some more minutes, she gives us each a plum and then we continue searching for tent space. We find a good one and are soon joined by Tacos and Foodfight.
We end the day with a nice bath in the river next to our tent spot and a bond fire and then cuddle into our sleeping bags. Unfortunately the night is not very quiet, as one of the RVs also camping here has its electricity generator on half of the night until Maya runs over to tell them to turn this fucking machine out of hell off, which they do (for one hour at least).
Miles 1610.4 to 1630.6. Shelly Meadows campground to campsite on a ridge.
We get up early, in fact we are the first ones to leave camp in the morning. We don‘t feel quite accostumed to being back out on trail yet and since we still want to get over 20 miles in we figure we might need longer than others to reach that.
We leave the forest after the first half an hour and stumble across Sasquatch who we will end up seeing a lot over the next few weeks. He is quite the character, we‘ve already heard a lot about him and look forward to being around him. We take our breakfast break after about an hour and are soon joined by Tacos and Foodfight as well as Snowwhite and Photo-op, another hiker we met back in Kennedy Meadows, many weeks ago.
I try my first oatmeal ever and decide I like it. Even though I put way too much water in it, according to Tacos. But I will keep trying to get it right, happy that I found myself a new breakfast item I like.
They all leave before us and we keep leapfrogging with everyone until lunch. The morning is quite pretty even with the hazy air, we discover beautiful lakes, we hike on ridges (which is my favorite kind of hiking) and through peaceful meadows.
We meet everyone again for lunch, relax on our footprint and rest our feet up in the air. We are again the last ones to leave after lunch and take it easy. It‘s a steep uphill now and I really do feel a little out of practice. We stop at a water source (water sources are quite scarce here in NorCal and mostly rather small flows) where we bump into Benjamin Button again whom we haven‘t seen since Mammoth Lakes. It‘s so funny how this trail works. Suddenly running into people you haven‘t seen in forever in the middle of nowhere!
We take it slow the rest of the day, talking about everything and nothing - when I suddenly stand still and look at something blackish. Probably just another tree stump, I say to myself disappointedly. But no - it‘s moving! I see dog ears I think. But a dog, out here? Not possible... I think what else it could be... Is it possible..? Could it be? A BEAR? A BEAR!!! „Dario, there‘s a bear over there!!!“ He now sees it too and confirms it! Bear ears are moving, a head is looking up - it‘s a cub!! A little teddy bear, about 10 meters away from us! So the next thought is, where is his mum? I don‘t want us to be a threat in her eyes! But there is no other bear around. The cub eyes us interestedly but then hops away on all fours. How spectacular! What a special and unforgettable moment to see a bear in the wild! And finally after so many weeks out here we get to see one (or at least half a bear, it was quite little after all!)
We are full of adrenaline now and hike on excitedly. Soon we stumble across Tacos and Foodfight who are actually in a fight and let them be. It‘s not always easy out here, as a couple. We both know that, we‘ve been there too. A small thing can lead to a big discussion. Hard days for one person can cause big fights because emotions are mostly and most easily directed at your partner. Where else can you blow off steam?
We only hike a couple minutes further and then decide to call it a day on this beautiful ridge. It sure is windy and takes us longer than usual to pitch our tent but we manage and are warm and cozy once we‘re inside. The wind beats around the rain fly, but we‘ve pitched it well and should be able to sleep just fine. Then of course I need to go outside again to pee and am greeted by the most wonderful sunset and sky. Our Big Agnes is lighted inside and looks great in front of this spectacular backdrop. How lucky are we to call this our home.
Miles 1599.7 to 1610.4. Etna to Shelly Meadows campground.
Today we sleep in until 8:30 am as we decided yesterday with Tacos & Foodfight to head out together around noon. Tacos needed some convincing to continue hiking as for his part he would be ready to go home now. He explains that he's already dealt with all the issues that made him do the trail in the first place and is at peace with himself again. But he agrees to hike until Ashland (first town stop in Oregon) where his dad and brother will visit him anyways. The two invite us for breakfast again - thank you guys so much, you and the breakfast are awesome!
Around noonish the two are back from doing their resupply and the Hiker Hut’s owner gives us a lift to the trail head. We start hiking and realize that the weather today is not that bad, still some smoke left but already way better than expected. We planned to do only 11 miles today, so nothing too difficult. The scenery is nice, we pass ridges, have stunning views and then are in another burnt area for a couple of miles.
When we started the PCT, those areas felt kind of strange but special. But by now we must have passed more than 30 burnt areas already and it is still sad but one gets used to it. Early in the evening we reach our camp spot before the others, pitch our tent, filter water and then Tacos and Foodfight arrive. Shortly after them we are joined by the Canadians and Snowwhite, have a bond fire, good talks and then go to sleep. Tomorrow we want to do more than 20 miles, let’s see how that will work!
Miles 0. Etna
When we wake up at 8am everyone else is already active, either having breakfast or preparing to go into town for shopping. We want to hit the trail again today and therefore start packing our stuff together. Just when we finish packing in our tent we hear someone talking to us: “Would you guys like to join us for breakfast? We stay in a room and have breakfast included. But as it is way too much, it would be a pity to throw it away.” "Oh yes, for sure", we both agree. The guy’s name is actually Tom aka Tacos and is a fellow thruhiker. He is hiking with his girlfriend, Liz aka Foodfight, they are from LA and a super nice couple our age. And the breakfast is very delicious. There is a huge omelette with hashbrowns, fruits, juice, coffee etc.
We have a great conversation with Tacos and Foodfight and are very easily convinced to stay one more night and spend some time with them. So we pitch our tent again on the same spot, install everything again and then the four of us go for a ride with the bikes the hiker hut provides to the public pool in Etna. It is very smokey again today I realize, when we ride the bikes on Etna’s streets. After a couple of minutes we arrive at the pool and instantly jump into the refreshing water. That is amazing! We really enjoy pools everytime we are in one! But there is also work to do. Maya’s sleeping pad has a hole somewhere and is deflating every night. So the pool is actually the perfect place to look for the hole. First of all the mattress can be used as a floating device and secondly it is easy to find the hole because it is the source of tiny bubbles we can spot on the surface. And tadaaa, with Liz’s help we find the hole and fix it.
After spending about two hours we start to getting hungry (or hangry) and ride over to the place we had dinner at yesterday. And who is sitting there as well? The three Canadians who started the same date as we did, Double D, his girlfriend Arms and their friend Paige aka Gourmet! We haven’t seen these guys since Bishop and are super happy to see each other again. And only a couple of minutes later we see Monica passing by in the street, storm out and say hello to her. What an incredible day!
It turns out that the Canadians will also stay at the Hiker Hut and also Snowwhite, another Canadian whom we've met multiple times will stay there. Only Monica is going to either another place or will even continue today hiking.
When we come back to the Hiker Hut we have some wine with Tacos & Foodfight and play with the neighbor's dog.
In the evening the four of us head over to a nice restaurant and Tacos invites to for some drinks. We have an amazing time at the restaurant. As we are walking back to the Hiker Hut Paige passes us with her bike, coming from the Dollar General with some beers. Maya calls out to her and yells at her to turn back around. So she turns around, driving in serpentine like lines and yelling: "Oh I had a couple of beers". Next second she flies thru the air, does kind of a looping and lands save and sound on her feet on the boardwalk! What just happened?! Haha, circus like show although she was very lucky not to have hurt herself badly.
We continue our way home and soon cuddle into our sleeping bags for some more Friends episodes, and then fall deeply asleep.
Miles 0. Bus drive from Mt. Shasta to Etna
We sleep in until 7am and then have some leftover pizza for breakfast (and later lunch, and later afternoon snack - this pizza was huge!) Once they open the laundry room we do our laundry and then take down our tent and walk over to the bus stop. There are plenty of blackberries on both sides of the street, and we happily pick and enjoy them. The bus to Yreka, where we have to change buses, soon arrives. The ride passes by quickly. The landscape around us looks rather dry, and it‘s very smoky and hot outside. I feel bad for people who live in this smoke almost every summer now.
In Yreka we only wait a couple of minutes and then board the next bus. We are the only passengers and there is no A/C. As I mentioned, it‘s really hot outside and thus we feel like sitting in an oven. It makes us quite sleepy, and sleep we do. We wake up when the driver inform us that we have arrived in Etna. Etna looks like a really small and dreamy town. We only heard good things about it, it‘s supposedly one of the nicest stops on the PCT!
We don‘t really know where to go from here. Should we first find a place to stay or do the resupply in the nearby Dollar General? We decide to shop first, so Dollar General it is.
We emerge about 40 mins later and 90$ poorer. Our cheapest resupply yet! No wonder, a lot of the items only cost us 1$! We meet other hikers out front who recommend to stay at the Hikers Hut which offers tenting or bunk beds for hikers but they also operate an actual Bed&Breakfast. We decide to walk there, in the midday heat. Not the best idea, we are soaked in sweat, carrying both our packs as well as our one week’s worth resupply in countless grocery bags. We get there eventually and like the place immediately. We chose to camp in the beautiful yard for 40$ rather than paying 80$ for two bunkbeds.
In the afternoon we mostly just chill, blog and take care of our e-banking. Later we head out for dinner at a supposedly very hiker-friendly restaurant/pub where we enjoy cool beers and burgers while watching an American football game (or is it Baseball? Or rugby? I can never tell!) on telly.
We later watch some friends episodes cuddled up in our tent. It feels good to be here. We already saw many more hikers and feel like we‘re part of the hiking community again, rather than bringing up the rear end of this year‘s PCT hiking season.
Miles 1274.8 to 1286.8. Sunset camp to Belden. Hitch from Belden to Mt. Shasta
Today we will reach Belden and hitch to Chester from there because of the fire closure. It also means we can‘t reach the PCT midpoint marker as it is inside the fire closure. We‘ve had a few days to come to terms with this and are just generally excited to, from tomorrow onwards, be hiking „on the other side“.
We get up early, take in the beautiful view once more and start our 5000ft in 12 miles (1500m in 19km) descent into Belden. The first part is through beautiful forest. Dario and I are hiking alone, the others left after us and need to take it slow on the steep descent because of their knee (Flamin Hot) and foot (Sweatheart).
We are hiking in silence, both deep in thought. I think about this whole trip, all the miles behind us and all the miles ahead of us. And how mid-August is fast approaching and we are pretty much halfway now. When we should be waaay up north. How are we gonna manage to make it to Canada in time, before winter is coming? We should really be aiming for 1 October but let‘s be realistic here. How are we supposed to do the second 1325 miles in 1.5 months when it has taken us almost 3 months to get to where we are now, the midpoint? What if we skipped ahead? Say, to the north of NorCal, and save 2 to 3 weeks? I consider our options, make a pro and con list in my head and come to the conclusion that there is no other way. We have to skip up north. As amazing and perfect our trip to Europe has been, we of course also lost 3 weeks on the PCT and would theoretically be crossing the border to Oregon soon. The only pro argument to stay put and keeping hiking where we are now is our ego. And it‘s big. We really want to walk from Mexico to Canada. We don‘t want to skip. I always told Dario that I‘d much prefer hiking it all in one go and not get to finish because of the snowfall rather than skip a part and make it to the finish line. But by now so many people have told us about the beauty of Oregon and Washington and we really want to see it! We have already spent over 3 months in California and can safely say that we have hiked all the way from Southern California over the Sierras to Northern California. If we skip a part we should do it now, also considering the fires further up in Northern California where fellow hikers are complaining it‘s quite nasty to walk through all that smoke.
For most hikers finishing means getting back to the "real world", for us it means to get started on the next part of our adventure around the world. So technically, if we skipped a part we would most likely avoid hiking in snow and get to relax underneath some palm trees on a Caribbean beach a little sooner. Not a bad prospect right now. Not bad at all. And we would still have hiked around 90% of the entire trail. We also need to take into consideration that Flamin Hot is soon skipping north and Sweatheart will need to rest her foot for a couple of weeks and will most likely not get back on trail.
In my head the „let‘s skip up north“- argument list clearly wins. I know it makes sense. It is time to share my thoughts with Dario because we are in this together and both need to be convinced that this is the best solution for both of us. So I drop the bomb on him. And let‘s just say, tonight we will already be camping next to Mount Shasta, 215 PCT miles north of Belden. But one after the other.
Dario doesn't need convincing. Once I have listed all the arguments the only question is where we should hitch to. We agree it doesn't make sense to hitch into Chester only to hitch further north from there. We might as well hitch from Belden directly, to another PCT further up north. We decide on Etna, it being one of the favorite hiker towns on trail and also the last resupply town before the Oregon border.
We arrive in Belden around midday after a really steep descent but beautiful views and head directly to the restaurant for breakfast. There are a lot of people there, most of them hungover. The festival is now over, the recovering part of it is in full action. I order a delicious BLT sandwich with avocado and Dario order the burger. Judith from Switzerland and Happy Hour from the US, both section hikers, soon join us and support our hitching idea. But Happy Hour also tells us that they have literally just reopened the PCT north of Belden. The fire has been 100% contained and is no longer a danger for the PCT. The PCT midpoint can be reached again! Great news! But Dario and I look at each other and know that it's not enough to make a difference. We definitely decided by now to skip north. Now we only need to inform Sweatheart and Flamin Hot, who arrive about 1.5 hours later. Sweatheart looks completely exhausted and looks defeated, knowing and feeling that she has to get off trail now. Flamin Hot first finds out that the PCT has reopened and is so happy, only to find out that we are leaving to go further north and then becomes sad. But he is leaving for the PCT trail days at the Oregon/Washington border in a couple of days anyway and might rejoin us later.
We prepare a sign saying "2 PCT hikers to Chico/Redding", say goodbye to the others and go stand by the road to get a ride. It takes a while but finally a nice man who partied at the Funk Festival stops for us and drives us to Chico from where we catch another ride in direction of Redding from where we plan to hitch to Etna. But the next guy can only take us to the small town of Los Molinos, still a couple dozen miles outside of Redding. We end up waiting there for a long time and finally a sweet young lady called Indigo stops for us. It turns out she was at the festival in Belden! We could have just gone with her from the start. But oh well, she goes all the way up to Mt. Shasta, another town on the PCT. We decide to go with her all the way and get another hitch to Etna the next day. It is really smoky up here, even worse than around Sierra City. It's from the Carr fire near Redding which is huge and still hardly contained.
She drops us off at the KOA Campground where we pitch our tent, have showers and do laundry, all for 45$. Since we are quite hungry we order a large pizza and have it delivered directly to our campsite number, along with a 2 liter bottle of coke. Welcome to 'Murica! It's also my sister Dana's birthday tomorrow, but it's already tomorrow in Switzerland, so we send her a lengthy video message to say happy birthday.
And finally, off we are to bed. What a long day. What a long journey. Who would have thought that at the end of this day we would fall asleep in Mt. Shasta. "To adapt is to move ahead", someone once said. So true.
Miles 1260.1 to 1274.8. Lookout Rock Camp to Sunset Camp.
In the morning the alarm clock goes off at 5.30 am as we planned the day before to see the sunrise from Lookout Rock. So we walk the short path up to the rock and find Flamin Hot sleeping next to it...That guy! He must have hiked over 25 miles yesterday to catch us here! So cool, we all think and wake him up to take some pictures on the rock with the three of us.
And indeed, it is one of the most spectacular sunrises on the PCT so far! We stay for about 30 minutes, take pictures and talk.
Later we hike on, reunited and fully motivated. Today it is only about 9 miles until we reach the road to Bucks Lake, a small town lying on the shore of the name giving lake.
We all are not sure if it is worth hitching in there, as we are already way behind schedule and you never know how long it takes to get a hitch.
But Flamin Hot convinces us to get a burger or something nice to eat there. And when we reach the street it only takes us 2 minutes to get a hitch. Sweatheart and Flamin Hot are ahead of us and have to be already in town. So the guys giving us a hitch doesn’t know where to drop us off and we pass by the restaurant where our two friends are sitting on the porch. But somehow we manage to get a hitch back and get a burger and a pizza.
Later we all head over to the lake and go swimming in the rather cold water. And it gets better, a friendly guy sitting there with his family offers us some fresh cherries and Corona beers that Flamin Hot and I gladly jug down.
Back on trail we still have to hike 8 to 10 more miles. We pass two wildlife documentalists who tell us that they hide wildlife cameras in the woods and that they always catch bears, deers and sometimes even mountain lions! What a nice reminder of where we are actually sleeping everyday - but so far nothing really happened to us. So we hike on and after 8 more miles meet Happy Hour, a fellow elderly hiker we have been leap frogging with in the last days. He is preparing dinner and is almost ready to go to sleep. He's found himself an absolutely beautiful sleeping spot on a ridge with stunning views over the valley.
He wants us to stay here as well and tells us about a meteorite shower tonight but we think it is better to push on for a bit. And so we do, well at least for 2 more minutes when we meet to SOBOs (hikerish for South Bounders, aka hikers hiking south, so from Canada to Mexico) and keep on talking with them for too long. The tell us that in Belden (one day further from here and our next town stop) a huge Funk festival is taking place at the moment and that we really should go as the entrance for PCTers is free. We will see, we thought, it really depends when we are arriving.
We then watch a beautiful and simultaneously terrifying scenery as the sun is almost down and presents itself in a totally red color, immersing the smoky surroundings in a eery kind of way. In in the middle there is a big mountain sticking out. Moooordoooor has risen again, we both think - and indeed, the whole thing could easily play part as the setting of Lord of the Rings.
We realize that we are indeed really tired already and there is such an amazing camping spot on the ridge (no I don’t refer to Sauron’s evil eye), so we decide to stay on the same ridge like Happy Hour, only 100 meters further away. We are hurriedly pitching our tents when I suddenly feel that something is wrong with my stomach - I feel kind of sick and half an hour later I am already lying in my sleeping bag feeling fevery and cold. Maybe Sauron’s eye caught me (or my stomach) but let’s not hope so... After a while I fall asleep while the others are still talking, admiring the spectacular surroundings and finishing up the last of Flamin Hot's pizza which he's packed out from Bucks Lake.
Miles 1239.5 to 1260.1. Bushcamp to Lookout Rock camp.
We half expected to be woken by some animals during the night because the comments on the Guthooks App mentioned more than once that bears and deers had been heard and seen previously at this campsite. But the only animals we saw, heard and were annoyed by were the wasps. There have been many lately and even though they are not aggressive I can't help feeling threatened by them.
We rise early. There is still no sight of Flamin Hot or Sarah, but we are sure they (or at least Flamin Hot) will turn up again eventually.
First the trail leads us downhill through the forest and past a few streams with flowing water. We fill up and have breakfast beside one of them. Today we really look forward to reaching the bottom of the mountain where the Middle Fork Feather River flows through and where we plan to take a lengthy swimming and laundry break. When we finally reach it it's the perfect weather for a bath in a cold river. The sun is out, we have been sweating even though we were descending and always in the shade of the woods. The bath is so refreshing, ice cold actually! But we really enjoy it, we lie between the rocks, get rid of the dirt on our bodies and wash our clothes simultanously.
Sweatheart soon takes off while we stay put a little longer and tell her that we will catch her at the next water source. We are not especially looking forward to the afternoon. 7 more miles, but more than 3000 feet up (11.2 km, over 900m in altitude) and it's hot and our packs are heavy! But we have no choice, and start climbing. I am happy to be distracted by a crime audiobook I am currently listening to. It makes it easier and we actually make good time, passing Sweatheart who is cooling her foot at the next water source. But still, the climb is strenuous and feels neverending.
Up up up we go and finally reach the last water for the day at the Lookout Spring where we fill up our bottles for the night, and climb the last meters to the top of the mountain. The view is incredible! All the smoke has gone, enabling us to see for miles and miles. Endless stretches of forest and peaks, the sun is soon setting and the sky looks absolutely stunning! We settle on Lookout Rock and take it all in. That's what makes it all worth it. No pain, no gain. Views like that give us the energy to keep hiking. And no more smoke! We are loving it! We have trouble leaving the place to get to our camp for the night. When we are almost there, only 0.2 miles from Lookout Rock we stumble upon trail magic! In the shape of a box filled with books! How awesome is this! There is also a trail register where we look for all our friends' names who passed here previously and also sign it. These trail registers are located all over the PCT, this is like the 50th or so we've signed, just FYI.
We set up camp, then I go back to the books box and grab the lightest book there is, and start reading the novel after dinner, in my sleeping bag. Dinner consists of two Knorr dishes (Fettuccini Parmesan) and a Mountain House meal desert: Apple Cobbler Mix. It looks quite disgusting once it's "cooked", or let's say "rehydrated", but it tastes quite good. We share it with Sweatheart and tell stories. She is so lovely, we are so happy to have met her! I really hope her foot will get better soon. But let's face it, hiking 20 miles a day probably isn't helping...:-( Flamin Hot is still not here, and we just hope he's doing well and catching up soon.
Miles 1219.7 to 1239.5. A-Tree Spring camp to bushcamp.
A hilly day awaits us today, but the biggest climb is the first one and thus we decide to get up early to conquer it early in the morning and before it gets hot. The others are also awake but look like they are in no rush. So we take off by ourselves. We make good time and soon reach the top. Today is pleasant enough, no smoky skies, pretty views and we are in good spirits. We keep seeing Sweatheart who takes her breaks with us, but neither Flamin Hot nor Sarah catch up with us. We hope they are fine, Flamin Hot having knee issues and Sarah having complained about her Achilles heel all day yesterday. We speculate that she will likely leave the trail at the road to Quincy and that Flamin Hot has slowed down to keep her company and will eventually catch up.
We spend most of the day hiking up and down (so no news there) and mostly in the woods (no news here either). It‘s actually quite cool in the shade of the trees and we are almost happy when we get to climb up somewhere so we get warm again.
What we‘ve seen of Northern California has been really nice. Maybe not as unknown and astonishing as the dessert or as spectacular as the Sierras, but the scenery here definitely has its own charm. Unfortunately we have had some hazy days due to the smoke of the wildfires around and don‘t always get to see all NorCal has to offer. But also, there is a thing called the NorCal blues and it is starting to affect us, too. We feel the length of time we have been on trail now, we know what still lies ahead of us, through social media and messaging we know where other hikers are at the moment and where we should actually be too (if we hadn‘t gone to Europe), and all this comes with an uneasy feeling. We should do more miles a day. We should get up earlier and hike until late. Do less zeroes. Hurry up! Which we don‘t want to do, but let‘s face it - Canada is still far away, and WINTER IS COMING. Eventually. Not today. Not next week. But next month maybe. In Washington you never know.
We climb our last mountain for about a mile and decide to call it a day after 20 miles exactly. We have actually discussed for a few days now that we should be stepping up our game and start doing 20+ mile days now. So we are going to try to do a few 20s and then gradually increase our daily mileage. This way in about two to three weeks we should manage 25 miles (40km) a day and possibly more in the weeks to come. We are after all pretty much the last hikers out here going NOBO and we feel the pressure to do miles each day. It‘s not a great feeling and one thing we can do about it is increasing the daily mileage. So let‘s give it a try in the next couple days!
Miles 1207.3 to 1219.7. Cowboy camp next to Packer Lake Lodge to A-Tree Spring camp.
It is still darkish as we wake up in the woods next to the Packer Lake Lodge. The night was alright although Maya and I both felt a bit exposed like we always feel when cowboy camping aka just sleeping in your sleeping bag on the mattress without any tent at all.
When everybody is awake we pack our things together and head straight to the Lodge again to find Krista doing her magic in the kitchen. It turns out she prepared two frittatas and freshly baked scones for the five of us! Wow, and further there are some delicious cherries and hot coffee for us!
Breakfast was never better on trail before and we all enjoy eating all this amazing food and the interesting conversation with interesting Krista.
But then it is time for us to leave and we say goodbye and thank you so much to Krista and hit the trail again.
Right after we leave we meet some trail maintenance volunteers and then start climbing for the next 4 miles. The trail is oh so dusty, with every step you take a massive cloud of dust spreads all over us.
On top of the fucker, sorry I mean mountain of course we have a break and wait for the others to arrive.
Flamin Hot is the first to arrive and joins us.
Several minutes later Sweatheart and Sarah also arrive on top but decide to push on, as Sarah’s feet are not doing well at all and she wants to hike slower than the others.
When we continue to hike it does not take long until we meet Sweatheart again, sitting on the dusty ground and eating some cookies she got from passing day hikers. Nice as she is, she offers us each a cookie which we gladly accept.
We hike for another 2 hours until we finally meet Sarah again who is sitting on a log and reading a book since she had been hiking way faster than expected.
At about 6pm we reach our campsite and discover some more (section) hikers already camping there next to a dirt road. Maya and I find a spot next to some bushes and after pitching the tent realize that this must be a deer's nest. Everything smells like in a horse stall and soon we actually spot the deer very close to our tent.
Before having dinner we all wash ourselves in the ice cold spring which is only a couple of meters away. Close to the spring is the Korean guy we met several times and Flamin Hot asks him to have dinner with us, which he seems to find a good idea because he nods, gets up and follows him over.
So the five of us and the Korean who hardly speaks a word of English have dinner together. As always Flamin Hot puts a lot of hot sauce over his dish (that is way his name is Flamin Hot). The Korean spots the sauce and using Google translate asks for the very hot sauce. Flamin Hot hands him over the sauce and the Korean uses almost half of the sauce. Flamin Hot watches this scene with a sense of horror, knowing that normally some drops of this devil's elixir turns your food into something which may come directly out of the burning flames of hell.
But the Korean eats his almost burning food as though it is nothing special, which leaves Flamin Hot rather speechless. Well, we all agree, we now found the real Flamin Hot guy, original Flamin Hot’s new name from now on will just have to be “Regular Hot”. Korea 1, Mexico 0.